Sunday, 4 January 2009

Four Corners

Just when you think there's surely no gap in the classics literature market for another publisher, along come Four Corners Books and their 'Familiars' series. They take classic, "familiar" texts and present them anew in strange, unfamiliar guises (while leaving the actual text intact, I hasten to add: these are respectful as well as playful publications).

The first Four Corners Familiar is Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Designed by John Morgan and artist Gareth Jones, it presents the book in the form of a 1970s fashion magazine, complete with period ads and photographs.



In another break from tradition, the cover features neither author nor book title, just an appropriate quote from the text.



The second Familiar is Bram Stoker's Dracula. A plain, boldly coloured hardcover, it contains atmospheric drawings by James Pyman, and uses a welter of appropriate typefaces for all of the different voices and sources which make up the novel (newspaper articles, diary entries, wax cylinder recordings, letters, etc).




The most recent Familiar is an unfinished Kafka novella, Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor, about a man who comes home to find that two bouncing plastic balls have invaded his home. The illustrations by David Musgrave are "a series of pencil drawings of curious artefacts and archaeological fragments invented by the artist".




There are more books to come in this series, and given that each of them only costs the same as a standard trade paperback I suspect Four Corners are onto a winner. They're currently accepting proposals from artists at any stage in their careers, represented by galleries/agents or not, for further books in the series.

UPDATE: The magical John Self has a review of Blumfeld over at Asylum, with lots of pictures to give you a better idea of what the book looks like in the flesh.

9 comments:

John Self said...

What an interesting idea. I must have the Kafka.

Also been thinking a lot about Dorian Gray recently as I've picked up the Penguin Bill Amberg leather-bound edition. God it's a lovely object. Also have Gatsby, with the others on their way. The titles are supposedly a choice of personal favourites by Amberg, though it can be no coincidence that these luxury editions (£50 cover price, though I paid £20 each on Penguin's website: a recession being a bad time to start charging that sort of money for a book, I guess) are almost all titles with associations of ostentation, decadence even: the aforementioned, plus Breakfast at Tiffany's, Brideshead Revisited and A Room With a View. The only one which doesn't seem to fit is Chandler's The Big Sleep.

tuesday said...

All these niche markets must exist for suckers like me who fall for every single marketing technique out there.

I think I'm in love with these books.

JRSM said...

Tuesday, you're not alone!

John, I was lusting over those Ambergs in a bookshop the other day, but at $125 Australian they're a little pricey. I hadn't noticed the lushness they all share, Chandler apart, but you're right! Perhaps they should have done Huysmans instead.

John Self said...

Hm yes, I was trying to think of an appropriate sixth volume to match the air of privilege in the five others. Huysmans I don't really know, which explains why I didn't come up with him.

Then I began trying to think of books (in the Penguin stable) that would be entirely inappropriate for such a luxurious treatment. Burroughs, perhaps? Orwell?

Anyway, I ordered the Kafka Four Corners edition.

And will you be seeking out this volume, JRSM?

Ian Brian Shimkoviak said...

absolutely brilliant stuff...

JRSM said...

I WILL be seeking out that volume! Looks fantastic. And Faber have a book coming out later this year all about the history of their book covers too--I assume to follow the success of Penguin's various books on same.

Huysmans I thought of as a good decadent as the man had a tortoise with gold and jewels glued to its shells. Another wildly inappropriate choice would be 'The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists'.

John Self said...

My copy of Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor arrived today. A little disappointed to report that it does not look quite like copy shown above and on Four Corners' website. The cover is black not grey, and smooth rather than fibrous as it appears in the photo, and the lettering less firmly debossed than shown. Just not quite as dramatic looking. Nonetheless the type and paper is good, and the endpapers have a makes-your-eyes-go-funny stripy design which reminded me a little of the interior cover of the UK hardback of Michel Faber's The Fahrenheit Twins, if that's of help to anyone...

John Self said...

I've written about the Kafka on my blog, where I've also posted some more pics of the book.

JRSM said...

Thanks, John: I will amend the post to link to your fine review.